What cannabis businesses and marketers need to know about going green on social media.
Cannabis legalization is a hotbed of activity nowadays. What do ganjapreneurs or the social media marketers working with them need to know? Back in June of 2014, I got to write a blog examining three questions the growing weed industry and its marketers were facing in the new “legalized” age. I discuss the following topics:
- Are cannabis-based businesses on social media?
- Are cannabis business treated differently on social media?
- What social media platforms should a cannabusiness be on?
It was one of, if not my first published blog post and while some of the figures may have changed since then, the main parts of the article remain true today.
EDIT – Link is now dead, below is the full text of the article with some revisions as it appeared on the Consume Intelligently Blog…
In today’s world, it seems that if your business isn’t on social media, it isn’t a real business. Let’s take a look at social media from this very specific business model. Does this remain true for cannabis-based businesses? If so how, is a Cannabusiness (cannabis + business) different than any other business on social media? What platforms should a ganjapreneur (ganja + entrepreneur) look into? What kind of limitations or restrictions can they expect? So, with these questions in mind, let’s get started.
Are Cannabis-based businesses on social media?
In a word…Yes. A quick search(must be logged into Facebook) on Facebook shows that there is no shortage of cannabis centric pages on the most popular social media platform to date. The same search on Twitter, at the time it was the 2nd most popular social media platform, comes back with almost identical results. As a matter of fact, searches on LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+ all show that cannabis businesses and profiles are present and accounted for on social media. So the question, are you on Social Media?
Are Cannabusinesses treated differently on Social Media?
The quick answer is…kind of. Clearly, weed businesses are allowed to stake their claim on the social frontier, like almost any other business. However, a look thru the user agreements and terms & services agreements of the many sites reveals that they are indeed limited in some ways. The most notable are they are prohibited from advertising on their respective sites. What does that mean you ask? Let’s look at Facebook for example. As an owner of a business centered around cannabis and it’s by-products, you are welcome to have a Facebook page (different than a Facebook profile) however you cannot purchase ad space on the social network. With recent changes in their business page algorithms, advertising has become the number one way for a business page to gain new fans. Facebook is basically cutting themselves off from, what industry analysts are describing as, a billion dollar industry.
Cannabis businesses shouldn’t feel left out, however. The same restrictions in advertising fall on tobacco and adult products/services. A full breakdown can be found in Facebook’s Advertising Guidelines online. This may indeed turn a few people off when it comes to having a presence on Facebook as a social media platform. So if not Facebook, then where should a Cannabusiness go for social media? That leads me to the next question:
What social media platforms should a cannabis-based company look to join?
This answer is not so simple. I cannot say you should join A, B, and C. Why? It depends on what you are looking to get out of the platform. Are you looking to let people know about sales? Do you want to give your customer/patients a way to reach you? Do you want to raise awareness for your company? Once you figure out the main purpose of being on social media, all decisions made should be centered around that goal. However, you should begin by asking yourself, what social media platform are my customers on? After all, whatever your goal is, you need to go where your customers are, first and foremost. Figure out who your target market is and see where they are. Let’s take a broad look at the newly legalized Colorado market and social media. According to Internet World Statistics at the time, Colorado has a population of just over 5 million people. Of those 5 million, 2.3 million are on Facebook. That means just under half of the population Colorado is on Facebook. If you have a Cannabis-based business in the Centennial State, you may want to seriously consider having a Facebook presence, despite the marketing limitations.
Truth be told, you will find similar marketing limitations across all social media platforms. This just forces Cannabusinesses to become savvier and provides an opportunity for ganjapreneurs who can speak tech to move ahead of the pack, but those are subjects for later posts, perhaps.
Social Media is a viable platform for Cannabis businesses and their customers, however, it isn’t as easy as it once was. Cannabusinesses need to become more creative and think beyond paid marketing on social media because they don’t have access to it…yet. The most important thing to keep in mind is that once you are on social media, your presence must be treated like your storefront or other brick and mortar location. By that I mean: You wouldn’t ignore a person who walks into your place of business? Treat online visitors as you would in person.